Starlin Castro is still struggling at the plate.
The Cubs have just gotten swept by the Reds this week and have fallen into a tie with the Brewers for last place in the division. In their last 19 games, they have been shutout by opposing teams five times. Ever since the Alfonso Soriano trade, the Cubs have averaged 2.7 runs a game, putting the offensive payload on younger players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Currently, the Cubs are in a rut they must get out of soon before they permanently fall into last place in the division. Both Rizzo and Castro have been slumping all season and are doing far worse than in their previous seasons. Castro is batting a career-worst .246 while Rizzo’s average is now in the .230 neighborhood despite 18 home runs. Soriano has had 7 homers since joining the Yankees and has had 13 RBIs in a period of two days. That offensive spark is what the Cubs are looking for right now. Keep in mind the Cubs pitching staff has not missed a beat during this team hitting slump. There have been multiple quality starts by the starting pitching staff that have been wasted due to the hitting struggles. The offense is hurting the pitching and the defense. I find it fascinating that one aspect of the game, like offense, can affect other parts of the game as in defense. Due to mental struggles at the plate, Castro has compiled 15 errors at shortstop this season. Due to Rizzo and Castro’s struggles, the bulk of the offensive production has relied on other players like Nate Schierholtz who has not hit more than 12 homers in a season until this year. Although Junior Lake started out hot, he has noticeably cooled off since and has not been doing well lately. The Cubs are relying on these four players mentioned to step up in the offensive production. The upsetting part is that these players have not been doing well all season, not for just a couple games. Rizzo is hopefully going through the so-called “sophomore slump”. In a player’s second season, they sometimes go through a season-long slump after an unbelievable rookie season. Castro still has a slim chance to raise his average to .270 and make it look like he had a good season. Other than that, the Cubs only reason left to play well the rest of the season is to not finish in last place for the second straight season. So far, I think this season was a lot better than the last, but the Cubs need to finish strong to avoid a 100-loss season. I am anticipating a better 2014 season for the Cubs. Kris Bryant may make his debut and the Wrigley renovations will start. For many players this season, 2014 cannot come soon enough.